Category Archives: Fun with Maths

Activities for September

September is here, and so is Autumn. In India, autumn is usually not taught as a season to students. But it should be, because just like the rest of the world, India experiences its version of autumn. Golden or brown leaves are usually a sign of autumn or fall. While we don’t often get to see autumn leaves in India, we do experience other changes, like the days become shorter and nights become longer. The days are sunny, but the sun’s rays are not as hot as they are in the summer.

Autumn in New York (Photo credit: blmiers2)

Weather in Autumn Activity:

I took a globe and positioned a flashlight on one half of the Earth. I asked Big A to place her hands on different parts of the globe, to tell me which felt hot and which part felt warm. Then, I took a ball and held it straight (not titled like the globe), and I placed the flashlight on one half of the ball. I asked her to tell me if there was a difference in the heat across the different parts of the ball. Except for the top and bottom, where the flashlight rays don’t hit directly, the rest of the ball will be of the same temperature.

We concluded that because the earth is tilted, areas that get direct heat feel hot and those that do not get direct heat feel warm, and this is why we have seasons. In September, India does not receive direct sunlight, hence the days are warm, and are shorter than nighttime.

Here’s a list of other activities I’ve planned for this month:

1. Talk about the weather in September and decide what type of clothes to wear for the weather. Work with your child to place clothes for September at the front of the cupboard shelf. By doing this, children realize how clothes are designed for seasons. And when they grow big, they are likely to be fashion conscious and  will dress up for the season.
2. If you have fashion magazines at home, show pictures of the Autumn/Fall collection and discuss the trends in fashion with your kids.
3. Autumn begins with Janmashtmi celebrations. Tell your kids a story about Krishna and then show them how to make butter.
4. September is also a month of harvest festivals – Onam in Kerala and Nuakhai in Orissa. Discuss the meaning of harvest, and why farmers celebrate the harvest festival.
5. Ganesh Chaturthi is another big festival that comes in September this year. Newspapers are going to be filled with photographs of the Elephant God. Have your child skim through the papers each day and cut pictures of Ganesha and create a collage.
6. Take a nature walk, collect some leaves and make leaf skeletons.
7. Collect fallen leaves and flowers, trace their designs on paper, cut the paper drawings and thread them together to make a toran. You could also make a toran with real leaf and flowers, but it will stay fresh only for a few days.
8. Download and print fall theme worksheet set 1 and worksheet set 2 and have kids fill them up.

If you have fun ideas to do with kids in September, please do share them.

Play Dough Pizza & Fractions

Play Dough is hours of quiet fun. Kids love mixing different colored dough (as much as you tell them not to) and molding it into different shapes. Play dough is a good sensory play item and by kneading the dough, punching it and pinching children also develop motor skills. It definitely seems like a great item to have at home, but buying it from the market is expensive at times, especially if your kids play with it regularly, mix it all together and then start asking for new colors.

So, I found a way to make play dough at home. I found many recipes on the Internet, tried and tested a few, and finally found one that worked for me. So here it is. To make play dough at home, you need:

• 2 cups flour (I used maida)
• 2 cups warm water
• 1 cup salt
• 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
• 1 tablespoon cream of tartar/vinegar (optional for improved elasticity)
• Food color (if you want to be child-safe) or water color will do too
1. Put all the ingredients in a bowl, mix them together and stir over low heat. The mixture will begin to thicken slowly.
2. If it is sticky, continue cooking, until it leaves the sides.
3. When the mixture pulls away from the side, remove it from the heat and leave it to cool until it reaches a temperature that is easy to handle.
4. When its cooled down, knead it with your hands, until it appears smooth and shiny.
5. Make small balls. Dig a hole in the center of each ball and a drop of color and knead it again to merge the color into the dough.

Hand it over to the kids and read a book or watch a movie, while they get busy in their play dough world 🙂

Or, you could make a pizza with them and teach them a little about fractions.

I asked Big A to make a pizza with the dough. After she made the base, I showed her how to slice it, and she made 8 parts. I explained to her that one small slice was called 1/8 part of the pizza, because it was one of the eight parts. Like wise I asked her to show me 2/8, 3/8 parts of the pizza. Then, came the fun part of putting toppings over the pizza. Both were creative in mixing up colors and crating funky toppings for the pizza.

While we were busy learning fractions, Little A used cookie cutters and made wonderful play dough art pieces.

When we ordered pizza the next time, Big A quickly opened the box to count the number of parts in the pizza, and told me how many parts she wanted to have :D. Who knew Math could be so much fun!

Parking Cars & Learning Math

If you have kids at home, especially boys, then there must be little toy cars in your house, either arranged neatly or most likely scattered around. Little A loves his cars and enjoys speeding them around the house. And they pretty much end up in different corners or under the furniture in the house and never back in the toy box.

So, I decided to create a parking lot for him.

I had these plastic trays from the super market, which I thought would make perfect parking lots. So, I covered their base with chart paper and divided the space into small slots. I numbered each slot and put corresponding number stickers on the cars.

I was very thrilled with the result. Now, he not only puts cars back but also recognizes numbers and can match them 🙂

Shapes, Colors & Art

Today’s activity draws inspiration from the Georgetown Elementary Art Blog about Murals. If you visit their site, you’ll see the amazing mural that students made. I loved the vibrant colors and loved that the entire piece was put together through teamwork!

I decided to do the same activity at home with A & A. I gave each a white sheet of paper and asked them to use a black crayon and draw different shapes all over the paper. When they were done drawing shapes, I showed them how to connect shapes together with lines. After our paper was filled with black outlines, I brought out four colors – red, blue, yellow and white.

Both of them began filling colors inside their shapes with their paintbrushes. After using each color a few times, they wanted new colors. I told them we only had four color bottles with us, but we could maybe try mixing two colors to see if we could create a new color. And so, the fun began, they learnt that:

• red+white = pink
• red+yellow = orange
• blue + yellow = green
• blue + red = purple

We added white to the colors to make different hues, so we managed to get light and dark green, light and dark purple and light and dark orange.

After the coloring was over, we let the paper dry. Later at night, I used black paint to redo the outlines around the shapes, since the little ones had colored over them. The next morning, we opened up two photo frames, and replaced the art in it with our own artwork. The kids were thrilled at seeing their artwork on the wall.

Counting with Beans

What can you make with ice trays and chick peas? An interesting activity for your preschooler.

I love using math manipulatives to teach Math. It’s not always feasible to buy these items from stores, so I am constantly looking for objects at home that can become interesting math manipulatives. And that’s how I came with the ice trays and chick peas to teach counting.

First, I began with two ice trays. I filled ten slots in the first one and asked big A to count the number of chickpeas, then I filled one slot in the next ice tray and asked her to count it. Then, I asked her to count the chick peas in both trays together. She counted 10 and then continued counting the next one as 11. I asked her to fill the numbers in her sheet. I repeated the exercise again, the first ice tray continued to contain 10 chick peas, and each time I added 1 more chick pea into the next tray. For the next 3 turns, she counted 10 and then the additional ones in the second tray, then I decided she was ready for the next step.

When I filled the second tray with 6 chick peas, I told her that the first tray already had 10, so she only needs to continue counting the chick peas in the second tray. I showed her how by saying “This has 10, and then comes 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 and 16.”. She picked up the counting pattern quickly, and each time I added a chick pea to the tray, her counting began from 11 onward.

After the second tray was filled with 10, I pulled out a third tray. Now we began counting by 20’s. Two trays had 20 chick peas, and each time I added a chick pea to the third tray, her counting began from 21 onward. Who knew counting could be so much fun!

Little A wasn’t happy about being left out, so I gave him a little tweezer and asked him to pic chick peas from the bowl using the tweezer and put them into slots in the ice tray. He loved the little activity, and it helped him build gross motor skills.

When I say the words “practice addition” what comes to your mind? Are you thinking worksheets with sums and problems? That’s the picture that I see in my mind; and it’s not a very interesting and fun picture. It’s not surprising then, that most children are not too happy when asked to practice math.

My daughter is still in preschool, and hasn’t been taught addition. It’s normally introduced in Grade 1. But, I don’t strictly follow the school system, I believe that the mind of a child is like a sponge; if a concept is presented in a fun an interesting level, then it can be easily absorbed.

Here’s an example of how I taught her addition. I planned it out as an activity and did not tell her that she would be learning math or learning to add.

We began with building blocks, a clipboard and a sheet of paper (with boxes drawn) . I asked her to pull out two building blocks from the box. Next, I asked her to count the hubs (the little dots) on each block and write the number in the boxes. Then, I asked her to count the hubs on both blocks together and write that number in the last box.

She enjoyed the activity and filled 2 sheets with numbers; she did not realize that she was learning; for her it was “just fun”.

Baking with Math

Baking is a great fun activity to do with kids. Kids enjoy making funny shapes with the dough, beating the batter and not to forget gobbling the gooey paste before you can even put it in the oven.

I’ve always enjoyed baking with my daughter, and this Sunday while we baked together, she also learnt some bit of Math.

Our baking session began with measuring the ingredients and putting them in a bowl to make the dough. Once the dough was ready, I gave her some in a small bowl, so she could make her own funny shaped cookies. She immediately noticed that my bowl had more dough than hers, and therefore concluded that I would make more cookies than her. (Lesson 1: Greater quantity means more, lesser quantity means less)

She decided to make worm-shaped cookies. So she flattened and rolled the dough to make some yummy worms. At the end, she had lined up 20 cookie worms. She quickly realized that some worms were longer than the others. And the little perfectionist that she is, she insisted on making them again so that they were all the same length. We took one worm, and marked its length on a Popsicle stick. And then as she made new worms, she measured them against the Popsicle stick marking and adjusted their length to get them all in one size. (Lesson 2: Using a tool to measure length)

Once the worms were ready, she wanted to give them chocolate chip eyes. Together, we counted the number of chocolate chips required for each worm, and then picked out 40 chips from the jar to put on the worms. (Lesson 3: Multiplication)

Finally we put our trays in the oven to bake. While we waited, we labeled the cookie jars for each family member. We calculated how many total cookies would be baked and how we could divide them equally among all. (Lesson 4: Division).

There were 2 extra cookies left, after dividing them equally between all. So, we treated ourselves to the two cookies, as a reward for a good job done!

Math is so much more fun when it is learnt through an activity, rather than as a subject. Projects are a great way to reinforce math skills in kids. And, if you can’t find enough time to do projects with your kids, then buy them some story books that will take them into the fascinating world of Math.

Check out these interesting titles:

• Mummy Math – An Adventure in Geometry